How to display some numbers in English?
Thread poster: Sheila Wilson

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Nov 3, 2009

As a native English speaker, I am not asking how to display ANY number in English. However, I have to admit to a rather embarrassing lack of knowledge in this area, no doubt brought about by living in France.

My general problem, not really suitable for KudoZ, is how to display some numbers in an abbreviated manner, for tourist leaflets. Examples:

In French, a trip takes 2h30
= "two and a half hours" if you've got room, but on a tourist leaflet you simply haven't
2 1/2 hours doesn't impress me as it can be confusing, especially once it's been handled by non-English DTP people. Would it be 2.5 hrs? If so fine, but:

In French, a trip takes 2h50
= "two hours fifty minutes" - surely we don't have to express that at 2.833 hrs? Or do we?
Is there a short way to display a duration whilst retaining the minutes? Is 2 hrs 50 mins the best?

In French, the minimum height for children is 1m05
= 1.05 m, I think, in British English (I don't translate into American English!)

I have a feeling there are some others that give me problems, but I can't think of them at the moment.

It's not an easy thing to track down on the web and, surprisingly "Practical English Usage" is of no help. Perhaps you "just know" the recommended formats, perhaps you can lay your hands on style guides. Thanks in advance for your input.

Sheila


 

Frances Leggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:55
Italian to English
+ ...
I abbreviate like this... Nov 3, 2009

Sheila Wilson wrote:

2 hrs 50 mins

1.05 m



Unfortunately I can't back it up with proof that this is the convention but usually hours is abbreviated as "hrs" and minutes "mins". The only thing I would say is that usually the measurement for metres comes directly after the number (without the space).
So it would be 1.05m instead of 1.05 m. I think French and Italian (probably also Spanish) tend to separate the unit of measurement from the numbers.

Hope this helps.

[Edited at 2009-11-03 11:12 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Frances - any further reduction possible? Nov 3, 2009

Frances Leggett wrote:
usually hours is abbreviated as "hrs" and minutes "mins".


Thanks for such a prompt response, Frances. You wouldn't recommend anything shorter in English then? The problem is that the French occupies 4 characters (2h50) - using 13 in English is sometimes a problem.

The only thing I would say is that usually the measurement for metres comes directly after the number (without the space).


Ah! Thanks for that - I think I'd adopted the French habit. It's sometimes hard to remember what's truly English.


 

Niraja Nanjundan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:25
German to English
Have a look at CMOS online Nov 3, 2009

You could have a look at the Numbers section in the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style. Although it's an American style guide, there is a chapter on British currency and a lot of the tips and advice apply to British English too. Here's the link:

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/ch09/ch09_toc.html

They do have a paid subscription, but there's a 30 day free trial, so you can still log in just to read this section without having to pay.


 

Brannigan
Italy
Local time: 18:55
Italian to English
+ ...
3h 40mins Nov 3, 2009

Usually the shortest form is 'h' for hours and 'mins' for minutes.

So "3 hours and 40 minutes" becomes "3h 40mins"

Have a Google of train times etc or maybe some travel plans for organised trips.

Hope this helps.


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Easy Nov 3, 2009

For the time, just say "2:30" or "2:50", etc. In the proper context people should understand it to refer to duration and not the time of day.

In Amercan English you would never express someone's height in meters, only in our old-fashioned and backward system of feet and inches.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to all Nov 4, 2009

@ Niraja. Thanks for the link - I've signed up to use this very useful site.

@ Brannigan. Ah, well - that's down to 9 characters! Thanks.

@ Henry. I'm not sure about 2:50 for a duration, although my husband thinks it would be OK. The problem is that, in a tourist leaflet, you often have a mix of start times and durations, e.g. "2:50 trip starts at 2:50"icon_confused.gif

Anyway, I feel better now that it's had an airing - I just felt a little nonplussed and needed to be able to justify any decision I make. Thanks againicon_smile.gif

(edited for typo)


[Edited at 2009-11-04 11:02 GMT]


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oxford Style Manual Nov 4, 2009

Whenever I am unsure about numbers I reach for the 'Oxford Style Manual'. It has a 28-page chapter on numbers - as well as very useful chapters on punctuation and representing other languages. It also handles various regional styles - including American English.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Present idea Nov 4, 2009

John Rawlins wrote:
Whenever I am unsure about numbers I reach for the 'Oxford Style Manual'.


Thanks, John. I've decided I ought to invest in one - would make a nice Christmas present from someone in the family.


 


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